New £400k funding for mental health service to support children and young people in Somerset schools and colleges

The work of Fit for my Future, Somerset’s integrated health and care strategy, is already paying dividends. Health, care and education services in Somerset have worked together with partners, schools, young people and parents to secure £400k of trailblazer funding, it was announced today.

The funding will help to create two pilot mental health support in school teams covering east and west of the county, giving almost 16,000 children and young people extra support with their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Mental health support teams will work with schools, children and young people and their parents with the aim of ensuring they are well equipped to have healthy and honest conversations about emotional wellbeing – as well as connecting them to local services.

Dr Alex Murray, clinical lead for Fit for my Future and, until recently, mental health clinical lead for Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, welcomed the news.

She said: “We know many children and young people face significant pressure in their lives. By making more emotional and wellbeing support available to them at the earliest possible opportunity, we can do to help them stay healthy and well throughout their lives. Fit for my Future has recognised the importance of giving the right help and support to people at the earliest possible stage.

“This new initiative is very exciting, and will make a huge difference to the lives of young people across Somerset. By strengthening the links between schools and mental health

services we can ensure children, parents and teachers know how and when to access vital support at the right time for young people.”

Alison Ficarotta, Service Director for Children and Young People’s Services across both Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is an enormously exciting opportunity for us to improve the emotional health, wellbeing and resilience of our children and young people in Somerset. It is important that we provide support at the earliest opportunity and we are excited to be working with colleagues in education, health, charities and the council to provide support that will make a real difference to the lives of the children and young people in Somerset.”

The trailblazer mental health support teams will offer both one to one support and group treatment sessions for children and young people and, where needed, provide referrals to specialist children and adolescent mental health services (CAHMS). This supports the Somerset Wellbeing Framework, our ‘whole school approach’ to wellbeing and mental Health.

Trudi Grant, Somerset County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “We are absolutely delighted and proud that Somerset has been awarded trailblazer funding. This is part of a national drive to improve emotional support to children and young people and we are pleased that Somerset has been selected as one of the pilot sites.

“Children and young people’s mental health really matters, not only for the individual and their family but for society as a whole. Over half of all mental ill health starts before the age of fourteen. One of the key parts of this work is to focus on promoting emotional resilience and ensuring support is offered to young people early and at the time when they need it.

“The award winning Somerset Public Health Wellbeing Framework will be a central resource for this work and will build on the good work schools are already doing to create a whole school approach to wellbeing and mental health.”

Somerset has been awarded over £1 million to deliver on this support over three years (to 2021/22). Dr David Soodeen, Clinical Director for the South West Mental Health Clinical Network, said: “The process of growing up can lead to a number of issues which can impact upon the mental health of children and young people – exam stress, behavioural difficulties or friendship issues to name just a few. We believe that if intervention can take place early on, it may help stop worries becoming much bigger mental health issues.

“By putting mental health support teams in to schools and colleges, the Trailblazer programme offers a really exciting opportunity to work differently with young people, supporting their mental health needs at an earlier stage and in a familiar setting.

“Improving access to mental health support is a key theme of the NHS’ Long Term Plan and our congratulations go to Somerset CCG for securing this funding – this will make a real difference to the local population and we look forward to working with both them, and colleagues in education, on delivering their plans.”

The plan will see 25 schools supported by two teams of support workers, which could include youth workers as well as mental health practitioners, providing evidence-based support in community venues, not just schools. We are also planning on having parent education programmes provided by the voluntary sector.

The two MHSTs will be linked to Education Support Centres (ESCs) to support better links between education and health.

Nationally, we know that 50% of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14, rising to 75% by age 24National data also show that one in ten children aged 5-16 has a diagnosable mental health condition, such as conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression.

Fit for my Future is led by the two commissioners of health and care services, Somerset CCG and Somerset County Council, working closely with the two acute hospital trusts and Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and Primary Care.

Where public consultation is not required for service change, transformation work has already begun. This successful bid for funding is the first of a number of bids for mental health funding to enhance existing community mental health support services and introduce new ones to give people they support they need in a timely way, when they need it.